An underlying belief that appears to afflict everyone in some form or another… is in the supernatural law of cause and effect… karma. Whether it is through acts of providence, or the wrath of vengeful gods, or impartial natural laws, etc… man looks to better his future by acting ‘correctly’ in the present. Even the rational man, who might not accept any of these, will still believe in his theory of chance… in the random roll of the cosmic dice.
These are all beliefs, just some are more preposterous than others. There are the conventional religions, and there are more the subtle beliefs such as the belief in law, or in nature… even atheism is a belief. By understanding one, we can understand them all. So we can stick with the law of Karma as an example.
The issue with Karma is that it is explained as a ‘process’ of cause and effect. The universe mysteriously unravels our fate based on our previous actions. Time is what separates a cause from its effect, even across lifetimes. The underlying case for Karma is that the Truth of this does not depend on our understanding of it… Truth in this sense is absolute. But in this case it is also dogmatic because we cannot prove it using rational methods. We may be able to follow the idea of Karma up to a point, perhaps as a working hypothesis… but beyond that can anyone actually KNOW this? Is it knowable?
If it is not knowable… and let us assume that the karmic sequence of cause and effect is indeed Truth… then how can we state factually things that we do not know first hand? If absolute Truth is forever beyond our cognitive ability (and it would appear that the law of Karma is) then must we remain in ignorance our entire lives?
It really begs the question, can someone speak Truth without knowing it is Truth? Can one get away with having a belief system in something he will never be sure is true? Are you prepared to spend your life on such a gamble? Surely that is an irrational stance?
Belief in karma encourages us to behave in a way that we would want others to treat us… this is called The Golden Rule. It is a good motivator for doing good and provides an ideal we can aspire to. And maybe it is true. But maybe it is not. On what authority do I extol the virtues of the Golden Rule? Do I take authority from Truth itself… do I act as the defender of Truth? Unless I know with certainty that karma exists… like I know that day is light… then how can Truth possibly empower me with the authority to represent it?
It is a difficult situation. If karma exists then I am on to a winner if I believe in it and act accordingly. But if it doesn’t exist then my belief in it is for nothing. Either way, there is something quite irrational about the requirement of faith… so without accepting or rejecting karma we have the freedom to explore what this faith really is, how it works and why it exists.
Belief in karma means that one is SEDUCED by the idea of karma… there is a desire for it to be true. It helps explain certain things and this brings order into our lives. It is convenient. But if we actually examine karma with a deeper level of focus, the intellect inevitably reaches an impasse. It cannot fully understand karma… no matter how hard it tries because it is simply not possible. One can follow the idea up to a point but that is not the same. So what happens? This is where things get interesting. The mind makes a leap of faith… and it is a most extraordinary thing. It gets carried away by emotion… carried to a place that doesn’t exist… where karma is understood. The same place where unicorns live.
“You really don’t believe in karma although you talk a great deal about it. If you really, actually, vitally, believed in it, as you believe in earning money, in sexual experience, then every word, every gesture, every movement of your being would matter, because you are going to pay for it in the next life. So that belief would bring tremendous discipline – but you don’t believe, it is an escape, you are frightened because you don’t want to let go.”
~ Jiddu Krishnamurti – Freedom, Love, and Action
There are things we want to believe simply because the idea is attractive. People with beautiful ideas are very persuasive. But the mind betrays itself by making the leap of faith… and we start to utilize a word that we do not know the meaning of… ‘karma’. And we start to talk knowingly about karma. But it is a lie. The idea releases a spark of satisfaction… and this is emotion. This emotion is physically real. The mind is of course unconscious of this process of deceit… otherwise it would not do it. In other words, the subconscious is created because of the lie. The fraud, because it is based on falsehood and therefore fictitious, becomes the subconscious… as it cannot exist anywhere else.
We carry around the obstinate insistence that predetermined, dogmatic Truth is knowable… that karma (or whatever belief) is true. So the subconscious becomes a repository of trauma… the trauma of living with a lie.
We are not saying that Truth is unknowable… we are saying that dogmatic Truth is unknowable. And without the lie there is no subconscious… there is no deep or shallow… no lower and no higher self. All is clear. Only Truth is.
Some thinkers such as theosophists might claim Truth is revealed to the higher self but for awareness that is not divided, there is no higher and no lower, no inner and no outer. The higher self is an idea constructed by thought that attempts to commit Truth to memory, to an experience.
First see the truth that a mind that chooses out of confusion can only breed further confusion. That is one fact. Another fact is this: that when the mind says it is only partially confused and thinks there is a part of itself which is clear – the higher self, the Atman, and all that business – , it is still totally confused. The mind that says “There is a part of me which is not confused” is deceiving itself. If there were any part of you which is very clear, obviously that clarity would wipe away all confusion. Where there is clarity there is no darkness; there is only clarity. So it is sheer nonsense to think there is part of yourself, a spiritual essence, which is clear, and that only the material world is in a state of confusion. That idea is an invention of the mind which prevents you from looking at the fact. The fact is that there is only confusion, so you must be aware of this fact and not deceive yourself.
~ J Krishnamurti, 5th public talk New Delhi 1959